Why the Comanches Don't Have Reservations w/S.C. Gwynne | Joe Rogan


4 years ago



S.C. Gwynne

1 appearance

S. C. Gwynne is an American nonfiction writer. He is the author of the prize-winning "Empire of the Summer Moon" and his latest book "Hymns of the Republic" is now available.


Write a comment...


Native Americans

Episodes & clips about the indigenous people of the Americas.


And just the fact that it's so recent. That's what's really crazy. Really recent. You're talking about the urban sprawl and Barb Meyer and things along those lines. And particularly in Texas where everything's almost private property. I mean, there's giant ranches everywhere and this was all run by the Comanche. Ninety-eight percent of Texas is, unlike if you go one state to the west and you're in the big land, public land, government land states, Texas is 98%. Private now. That's a weird thing, isn't it? It is. It's very strange. How'd that happen? Well, it happened because that's the way it settled. And the public land states just... For one thing, there was a lot more of apparently sort of useless land in the western states. But anyway, it happened. And in Texas, you're lucky to get yourself a state park here and there. You were doing research for this. Did you meet with any current Comanches? I met with some of them and I know some of them. Some of them are on my website. But as far as interviewing them for things that happened two or three hundred years ago, that's not really a... That's sort of a non-starter as a historian. Although the book itself is based on lots and lots of interviews with Comanches, but of the era. There were some great projects done in the 20s and 30s with Comanches who talked about... Who had memories of the 19th century. And so a lot of what we know, that's in my book, that we know about the Comanches and who they are come from all of these interviews. And there's a lot in my book that comes from Comanches, but again, of the era. So I just figured that interviewing people today about things that happened a long time ago was probably not that efficient. No, for sure not that efficient. But still, to me, it would be kind of fascinating to see where they are now. The Native American reservations in this country have traditionally been pretty horrific and it's very depressing and sad. And for the people that lived there, just so little hope and so little opportunity. And it's... As you were talking about before, the broken treaties and just to see them having gone from being this incredible war-like tribe to being resigned to these very small patches of land that are usually not very fruitful and not very resource-filled. And that happened to a lot of tribes. I mean, if you look at the Comanches, the Comanches are a pretty small tribe. They're located in their center, although there's no reservations in them. There's no... Excuse me. You all right? Yeah, they don't have a tail end of the flu. They don't have a reservation there, but they're... I'd say the last number I heard was 14,000 or something like that. One of the big, I guess ironically in some ways, determinant factors in how wealthy a tribe is now is proximity to a major urban area. For example, Chickasaws and Choctaws are in range of DFW, so their casinos there make a lot of money. The Seminoles in Florida. There's some tribes in California who are making a lot of money. If you go up to say some of the Sioux reservations well up north on the plains, they're not near... The lands, their traditional lands just don't happen to be close to... Urban centers. Yeah, urban centers. And so there's a little bit of that going on there. But yeah, this is just where we, the US government, put the Indians. In terms of plains Indians and Comanches and Arapahos and Cheyennes and Sioux and everybody else, they never wanted to be farmers. Farming was exactly what they never wanted to do. And even if you gave them 160 acres, they would sublet it. They would rent it out to usually a white farmer who would farm it and they would take a sharecropping percentage or something. But yeah, so they didn't want anything to do with that. And above all, they didn't want to be forced into a type of life that they had never done before and considered it just kind of unseemly. So do Comanches have a reservation today? No. No reservation at all? No. Well, the problem is the way... This is going to get into a lot of detail, but I mean, Oklahoma, they basically, in favor in place of reservations, they gave out individual portionments of land. And had them assimilate. Yeah. So where I, for example, where I came from in the East Coast, there are reservations. If you go to say, Colorado, you'll go to see the Ute Reservation or some of the Sioux reservations. There's reservations all over the place, not in Oklahoma. Wow. So they're in danger of having their culture probably get erased. I mean, I think they would tell you... I mean, I don't want to speak for Comanches or anybody else, but that they're pretty strongly organized where they are. They have a nation. They do have a nation. It's just they don't have a body of a reservation, but they do have a nation. But if they have a nation, they don't have the same sort of laws that ones have a reservation. No, they actually do. They do? So if you go, for example, I spent some time with the Chickasaws a few years ago. It's incredible. Now, they don't have a quote reservation either, but they have little pieces of land that is theirs. But they also have a completely parallel police system, completely parallel legislature. They have parallel healthcare systems. And you can drive through these parts of Oklahoma where, I don't say Choctaws or Cherokees or whoever they may be are. And there are these whole parallel worlds that are existing right in front of you and you don't see them. Wow. Yes. Actually, I think they're, in a lot of ways, a lot of the tribes in Oklahoma are doing well. But you, I mean, you literally can drive through it and you wouldn't be able to tell. It's just such a stunning amount of change that happened to this continent over a relatively short period of time. Yeah. I mean, really astounding. And if you look at what, from the moment that the last Comanche is surrendered with, when Quana and the last of the starving, all the buffalo have been killed now. And so they're coming in and it's 1875. That very year, their old kind of main, I guess, camping ground would be Paladero Canyon, one of the biggest canyons in the American West up in the Texas Panhandle. That's kind of where their sanctuary was, or one of their big sanctuaries were. Within that very year, white men already owned Paladero Canyon. There was already a ranch on it. It was already private property. Within a few years, there's barbed wire going all the way up. I mean, this is happening. I mean, so in other words, you have the transfer of ownership. Suddenly white people own the land that the Indians used to be theirs, right? The second thing that happens is now we have the cattle drives just before barbed wire. And then there's only a few years of cattle drives and then the barbed wire goes up. And this happens with just breathtaking speed. From really the moment that they started killing the buffalo off in the, what, 1870 or something? 1870, one, two, I mean full barbed wire. It's less than a couple decades.